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Introduction to the European Union

By LeftOfCentre in Op-Ed
Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:17:25 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

Over the past several years, international media has increasingly taken notice of a region of states called the European Union (EU). An organization that most people in Europe have strong feelings about, the EU seemingly has a position on everything from strawberry sizes to the middle-eastern peace process. But what is this mysterious entity, how did it come to life all of a sudden and what powers does it have?


The idea of a united Europe solving its internal disagreements peacefully rather than by wars, has been present ever since the middle ages and was argued for by important intellectuals such as Rousseau during the Enlightenment. In 1923, Austrian Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi founded a pan-European forum and in 1929, the French foreign minister - wanting to achieve security for France against Germany - put forward the Briand plan of combining European countries into a federation. The proposal was dismissed as Britain, Germany and others were skeptic.

Following the second World War, a new spirit of cooperation developed, as the war-torn people and governments of Europe sought for ways to achieve a durable peace. New proposals were laid on the table, such as a suggestion by resistance movement member Altiero Spinelli to create a federal Europe with a common government, constitution and army. Churchill made a similar suggestion in a famous speech in which he reflected on Europe's potential and the tragic events having taken place there:
And what is the plight to which Europe has been reduced? Some of the smaller States have indeed made a good recovery, but over wide areas a vast quivering mass of tormented, hungry, care-worn and bewildered human beings gape at the ruins of their cities and their homes, and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new peril, tyranny or terror. Among the victors there is a babel of voices; among the vanquished the sullen silence of despair. That is all that Europeans, grouped in so many ancient states and nations, that is all that the Germanic races have got by tearing each other to pieces and spreading havoc far and wide. [..] What is this sovereign remedy? It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.
Perhaps the most important proponent of European unification was Jean Monnet, who provided the inspiration for the Schuman plan. In a declaration on 9th May 1950, French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed that French and German production of coal and steel - essential ingredients of war - be put under a common High Authority as to intertwine the countries sufficiently to prevent a new war. He also invited other European countries to join. That day has become known as Europe Day and is celebrated by some and ignored by others. In 1951, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed a treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

The next major step in European integration occured in 1957 when the six countries proceeded with the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC). The idea was to create a larger geographic area in which workers, goods and services could freely move. Customs duties were abolished and soon, common agricultural and commercial policies were established. Impressed with the progress, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the community in 1972. The role of the community was also extended to regional, social and environmental issues.

In 1979 a period of worldwide monetary instability led the community's member countries to create the European Monetary System (EMS) in which a strict monetary policy was practiced. The discipline and the open market benefited member countries. In the eightees, Greece, Spain and Portugal joined the community, which was starting to show a united front and signed agreements with countries around the world. In key trade negotiations in 1994, the community negotiated as a single block and today remains the world's biggest trading power.

In 1986, the community signed an agreement to establish by 1993 a single market. When the Berlin wall fell, room was paved for even more enthusiastic integration and more agreements were signed. In the Treaty of European Union, the community was renamed to the European Union (EU) and the principle of European citizenship was created:
"Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union..."
In addition, work began on the formation of a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and agreements were reached to increase cooperation in other areas such as justice and health. It was also decided that by 1999, the Union's member states would replace their national currencies with a single currency. In 1995, Sweden, Finland and Austria joined the Union. In 1999 the euro currency, €1 EUR, was introduced on world financial markets and in early 2002, it started circulating as bills and coins while the old currencies, by now just other ways of expressing a particular amount in euros, ceased to be legal tender.

In 1999, heads of state tasked a special convention with drawing up a Charter of Fundamental Rights for the Union's citizens. Rather than the replace existing laws and constitutions, the Charter's purpuse was to summarize and clarify existing rights in a single document applying to everyone in the Union. In foreign policy, one of the more controversial aspects of the Charter has proved to be Article 19:
Article 19
Protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition

1. Collective expulsions are prohibited.
2. No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
In extradition requests, this article has caused friction with the United States in particular. US prosecutors have had to promise prior an extradition that the death penalty will not be applied. It is however worth pointing out that the strong views held by European countries on the issue of death penalty are in no respect new, but follow in the spirit of the much older European Convention on Human Rights which dates back to 1950, but is unrelated to the EU and has many more signatories than there are EU member states.


There are a lot of misconceptions about the EU, particularly in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Many assume that random unelected civil servants have far reaching powers to create laws against the will of the member states. Sometimes, member governments take advantage of this and blame the "EU" for unpopular laws that they themselves shaped. For an understanding of the EU, it is fundamental that one is aware of the role of its various institutions and how they function. To save space, we will only look at the most important institutions. A more complete list can be found here. In addition to the various institutions, there are also a number of EU agencies located throughout the member states with varying roles and degrees of power. The geographical placement of new agencies is sometimes cause for considerable battle among states, all of whom desire the honour of hosting an EU agency. Notable among the agencies is European anti-fraud office OLAF, European police Europol and European foreign aid office ECHO, which in combination with its equivalent state aid agencies distributes 55 % of all global humanitarian aid.

European Commision

The European Commision presents proposals for laws that, if adopted, become universal laws across the entire Union. The commision seeks to move the Union forward by creating proposals that its states can unite around to ensure progress in various areas. The commision also has the role of ensuring that states comply with adopted legislation. This can be done by bringing member states to court, as a last resort. Each state government appoints one or two commisioners (depending on population size), to work in a particular topical area. For example, there is Trade Commisioner Pascal Lamy, who represents the Union in negotiations with "foreign" (non-EU) nations in trade issues. The Trade Commisioner is the EU equivalence of US trade representative Robert Zoelick. While he is given extensive negotiative powers, his mandate is derived from the states and he has constant consultations with them. Competition Commisioner Mario Monti heads the Union's anti-trust authorities that decide on mergers between companies operating in the EU. There are a total of 20 commisioners for areas such as social policy, environment, science and technology, and external relations. The state governments also appoint a Commision President, currently Romano Prodi, who by some is mistakenly seen as a kind of president of the European Union as a whole. As people did not elect him directly, this misconception naturally causes some hostility towards him. The president's role is to coordinate the work of the Commision and sometimes represent the EU as an organization, but his concrete powers are few and not comparable to those of a prime minister or national president. When appointed, commisioners vow to work for the interests of the Union as a whole, and are not supposed to guard the interests of the state that elected them.

European Parliament

The European Parliament has over six-hundred representatives, directly elected by the people in all the EU every five years. Less populated states are given more votes, relatively speaking, than big states, so that the interests of small states have sufficient representation. Like any national parliament, the European Parliament is organized in various committees who focus on particular areas. The power of the European Parliament has gradually been extended over the decades. In some cases, the European Parliament has a purely advisory role while in many areas it has direct veto power over proposals put forward by the Commision. Members of the Parliament belong to political parties that work on EU level, that correspond to parties on state level. For example, all social democratic parties in the EU have united in the Party of European Socialists (PES).

Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers (AKA Council of European Union) holds the cabinet from each state. All ministers, the prime minister included, use the Council to carry out discussions on policy - often in the form of tightly guarded summits held around Europe. The Council has veto power over the proposals from the commision. To solve its internal disagreements, the state governments vote. Depending on the area to decide about, either a unanimous decision is required or a majority is sufficient. Votes are weighed so that small states have more relative power than big states, in light of their share of the total EU population States take turns every six months in holding the presidency of the council. The state that holds the presidency does not hold any extraordinary power over the decision-making, in theory, but in practice has a better chance to set the agenda and thereby control the debates. The Council is often characterised by negotiations late into the nights, with each state fiercely protecting its own perceived interests. The Council appoints a foreign policy representative, formally called "High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy" - presently Javier Solana. The creation of this function likely can at least partially be traced back to past US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's call for a single phone number to Europe. However, confusingly, the High Representative's role somewhat overlaps with a member of the Commision, namely External Relations Commisioner Chris Patten.

European Court of Justice

The European Court of Justice is sometimes referred to as the Guardin of the Treaties. Physically located in Luxembourg, it is a kind of European equivalent to the US Supreme Court. The final arbitrer of conflicts between EU institutions or states, the Court has the power to issue final rulings on issues regarding EU legislation and in particular, the EU treaties that heads of state have signed that combined make up the equivalence of a European constitutional framework. In case of doubt, courts in the states are required to consult the EU Court before ruling on issues that touch EU legislation. The Court has been known for a high level of independance, and its rulings have not infrequently upset EU institutions or states. Some of the more interesting and controversial rulings include:

A decision to revoke a Commision directive to ban tobacco advertising. The Court pointed out that this was a health issue, which is something the Community as a whole does not hold powers in under the legislation regarding the Single Market.

Cases C-120/95 and C-158/96 - Nicolas Decker v Caisse de Maladie des Employés Privés and Raymond Kohll v Union des Caisses de Maladie, in which the Court found that states are required to reimburse citizens for the cost of healthcare obtained in another state.

Case C-353/99 P - Council of the European Union v Hautala which concerned attempts by a Green Party EU parliamentarian to gain access to a Council document relating to arms exports. As the document contained classified information, the Council refused access to the entire document. The Court's findings were:
The Court of Justice held that Decision 93/731 neither requires the Council to consider nor expressly prohibits it from considering whether partial access to documents may be granted. It pointed out that the public must have the widest possible access to the documents held by the Commission and the Council and rejected the Council's argument that Decision 93/731 concerns only access to "documents" as such, not to the items of information contained in them.
While the principle of access to official EU documents does not compare to the unique offentlighetsprincipen of Finland and Sweden, this landmark ruling forced state governments to begin to fulfil their stated promise to increase transparency in the EU institutions.

European Central Bank

The European Central Bank in Frankfurt conducts the monetary policy for the common currency, the euro. Note that three EU states; Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, have chosen to retain their old currencies for the time being but may consider adopting the euro at a later date. Doing so would require them to surrender their national monetary policies.


The traditional way to affect the government, with which most people are familiar, is through the ballot box and by contacting representatives. A lot of people unfamiliar with the EU's working methods feel alienated by the central institutions, and are unsure of how to affect change now that so many laws and decisions come out of Brussels, the unofficial capital of the European Union.

You may be surprised, but the old ways are still just as appropriate today. The number one way of affecting what the EU does and how it develops, is by voting for the party of your choice in the national elections. This will help to ensure a makeup of representatives in the Council of Ministers that is politically favourable to you. Also, vote for your favoured representatives in the elections for European Parliament. Many believe that the Parliament has virtually no power, but its competencies has been extended over the years and today it has veto power in many areas, and a lot of leverage in others. Something which is important to keep in mind is that frequently, your representatives will align themselves with their party friends on EU level - that may in subtle or less subtle ways differ from the positions taken by the political party on state level. It is beneficial to investigate the website of the EU party group that your state parties belong to. This website lists the major parties in the European Parliament. If you wish to present your views, you should definitely consider contacting both your national and European parliamentarians, as well as your national ministers (who sit in the Council) and the appointee in the Commision who deals with the particular area of interest to you.

If you like on-line dialogue, you may consider attending one of the chats on IRC - the biggest chat system - that the commision has arranged fairly regularly since 1997. Typically, a new chat is announced every few months and is hosted by a Commisioner and his/her team of experts, who devote two hours to a particular policy area. Questions are typed right into the main room (#en for English) or one of the various language-specific rooms, where translators are standing by to accept questions or opinions in (usually) any official EU language. This site holds information about scheduled chats (and how to participate in them), as well as transcripts and webcam photos from past chats. There is no censorship or intermediary who relays questions, so the room can get chaotic sometimes - but the discussion is often very interesting. The modern day equivalence of town meetings with the electorate?


Several countries in eastern Europe have applied for membership in the EU, and are carrying out extensive reforms (powered, in part, by what is known as pre-accession aid from the EU budget) to their justice systems. For example, applicant countries are strengthening minority rights, abolishing death penalty, and ensuring the independance of courts in order to meet the EU's requirements. They are also in the process of incorporating all current EU law into their societies. However, it is clear that as the Union expands in the coming years, when its total population will rise from 380 million to over 500, the present system of law-making will need reform. If this does not happen, the Union risks being paralyzed as single states still have veto power in many areas of legislation.

A special Convention on the Future of Europe, consisting of representatives from governments, national parliaments, the European Parliament, and the Commision, has been tasked by the Council with reflecting on how the European Union should work in the future in order to be effective and meet the expectations of citizens. While the Convention lacks legal powers, its findings will be difficult to ignore when the heads of state meet for the intergovernmental conference in 2004. By then, leader of the Convention Valéry Giscard d'Estaing - who has compared himself to US founding father Ben Franklin - hopes that an EU constitution can be adopted, and that the balance of power between states and the central institutions can be decided on once and for all. Suggestions on reform are pouring in from all kinds of sources, including governments, civil rights groups, political parties, and others. Some have ambitious proposals of converting the Commision to a Federal Government, its President directly elected by the people, while others prefer to expand on the current more state-based approach to policy making and simply abolish more areas where a unanimous vote is required.

A single European Army has also been suggested, something that the Union may already be on its way to achieving by the creation of a Rapid Reaction Force and the pooling of resources to rectify admitted deficits in military capability. Interesting recent developments have been the agreement to create Galileo, an independant satellite positioning system, and the decision to purchase many new Airbus planes for troop transportation.

Citizens have been invited to speak out on the future of the EU in a threaded web-based discussion forum.


In addition to the links provided in the text, the following websites may prove useful:

This is the official portal of the European Union, with a huge amount of information and news in all official languages on everything from policy and law to the working methods of the institutions.

The European Union in the World
An official portal for issues in which the Union acts globally - such as trade, aid and foreign policy.

External Relations
The official site for the EU's relations with foreign (non-EU) countries. Holds valuable information such as news, and a menu with which one can select an information page about the EU's relations with a particular country.

The European Union in the United States
The official website of the EU ambassador to the US. The pages on this Washington-based office holds a lot of information on EU-US relations and cooperation programs, and a special Guide for Americans.

In the somewhat "euroskeptic" northern European countries, bizarre myths about the EU develop on a regular basis - such as that British cars must have an EU flag on license plates.


It is clear that the Union has come a long way since its conception over fifty years ago. While it sometimes is inefficient and bureacratic, from the perspective of securing peace, it must be considered a success. In also continues to show that when European countries unite, they have a much better chance at defending their opinions. Its unique way of unifying traditionally soverign countries has provided the inspiration for the African Union (AU) which seeks to establish similar central institutions in order to better protect the interests of African nations. The various Treaties that have been signed and ratified over the course of the European Union's development have given citizens additional rights, most notably the right to freely work or study in other states with little effort. For the Schengen area which comprises all EU states except the United Kingdom and Ireland, not even a passport is required to travel.

I hope that this article will have helped to clear up some of the confusion regarding the Union and how it forms its policy.


Voxel dot net
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What do you think of the European Union?
o I live in the EU, and I am in favour. We are the EU. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. 43%
o I live in the EU, and I wish to withdraw from it. 7%
o I live in an EU applicant country, and I wish to join. 2%
o I live in an EU applicant country, and I am against joining. 0%
o I live in the United States, and I am in favour. 18%
o I live in the United States, and I dislike the EU. 8%
o I live elsewhere, and I am in favour. 16%
o I live elsewhere, and I dislike the EU. 2%

Votes: 187
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o famous speech
o proposed
o Europe Day
o Charter of Fundamental Rights
o European Convention on Human Rights
o here
o agencies
o Europol
o 55 % of all global humanitarian aid.
o European Commision
o Pascal Lamy
o Mario Monti
o Commision President
o European Parliament
o representa tives
o Council of Ministers
o Javier Solana
o phone number to Europe
o Chris Patten
o European Court of Justice
o decision
o Cases C-120/95 and C-158/96 - Nicolas Decker v Caisse de Maladie des Employés Privés and Raymond Kohll v Union des Caisses de Maladie
o Case C-353/99 P - Council of the European Union v Hautala
o offentligh etsprincipen
o European Central Bank
o your representatives
o This
o Commision
o This site
o Convention on the Future of Europe
o how the European Union should work
o Galileo
o discussion forum
o The European Union in the World
o External Relations
o The European Union in the United States
o Guide for Americans
o Euromyths
o British cars must have an EU flag on license plates
o African Union
o Also by LeftOfCentre

Display: Sort:
Introduction to the European Union | 99 comments (97 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
The EU (3.14 / 7) (#2)
by /dev/trash on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 09:49:22 PM EST

I think deep down the member countries all think that if they are all "one" that they will never have a WW1 or 2.
Perhaps, but you have to take into consideration the countries that don't get into the EU warring against you.
So to alleviate that you allow most in, anyway. And you get one state.
But you still have many different people, and we have seen what happens when different peoples are forced into a one state kind of deal.
Artificial borders are evil.

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Well (4.80 / 5) (#4)
by LeftOfCentre on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 10:10:44 PM EST

Aren't all national borders artificial?

[ Parent ]
Nonsense (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by Nick Ives on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 11:28:20 PM EST

If you shine a beam of light from Calais to Dover it takes at least half an hour to get there simply due to passport control. For some weird reason its pretty much instant the other way, but I'm sure thats the French's fault.

I forgot to let fluff in. Oops.

[ Parent ]

mais non mon cher (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by martingale on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 01:04:25 AM EST

You mean the other way around? Last time I took the Eurostar from Waterloo (admittedly two years ago) it took a lot longer to check passports than on the Paris end. And for some weird reason, the tunnel itself is all dark. How does the light travel from England to France, if not by rail?

[ Parent ]
It's all changed now (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Mashx on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 04:42:20 AM EST

Two weeks ago there was two hour delays on the Gare Du Nord end, due to customs: Waterloo we walked straight through. This has been the case in all but a few cases I've taken it in the last four years.

Oh, and light travels by boat of course. The light always misses the turning before getting to Dover.
[ Parent ]

damn, you win (none / 0) (#70)
by martingale on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 05:12:17 AM EST

Your pair of weeks beats my pair of years, I fold.

Dunno about taking the ferry, even if it's enlightened. I get seasick y'see, much prefer curling up in the train with a copy of the Magna Carta.

[ Parent ]
Big Charter (none / 0) (#73)
by Mashx on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 05:44:07 AM EST

I have to read Magna Carta on the train, it takes so bloody long.. Usually I take the plane though, after all it's the same price, and less kids ;-)
[ Parent ]
actually... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by butterfly on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 05:55:21 AM EST

...I think you'll find that the light actually travels at high speed on the french side, but has to slow down to 60 miles per hour through Kent ;)

"an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind"

[ Parent ]
a half-hour? (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by ethereal on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 11:38:53 AM EST

Surely it doesn't take the Echelon system more than a few minutes to record the beam, log it, and regenerate it going the same direction past the listening station?


Every time you read this, God wishes k5 had a "hide sigs" option. Please, think of the
Parent ]

in my experience... (none / 0) (#60)
by KiTaSuMbA on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:48:54 PM EST

police never checked for passports since the EU was established (free borders, against the EEC ones) unless they were looking for a specific person (with a warrant in hands). At least in my usual intercourse Italy - Greece and the other way around.
There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
Britain is somewhat different (none / 0) (#62)
by martingale on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 12:01:32 AM EST

If you fly to England, you'll notice that the British do check passports for internal EU flights (although they couldn't stop you from entering as an EU citizen of course), unlike all the other European nations. Maybe it's because they are an island and therefore it is relatively easy to guard the borders (one tunnel, five airports, a few ferry stations).

[ Parent ]
Schengen Space (none / 0) (#66)
by linca on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 04:34:32 AM EST

is the Union of countries, all part of the UE, within which freedom of movement is absolute, i.e. no border checks. Portugal, Spain, France, Germany are the main members ; not the UK.

Not that you can't get in it without being checked ; mountains pass are very rarely guarded ; even the Swiss-French border is very easy to pass through.

[ Parent ]
Influx (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by Mashx on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 04:50:19 AM EST

When the Schengen agreement was agreed, Britain did not sign up for it as there was such a big problem with Illegal Immigrants. For some reason, Britain is seen as the 'Holy Grail' within the EU for these people, as they believe that they will be treated better and have more chances there than in France or Germany, where there is certainly more prominent right-wing politicians.

Was wondering by the way...

(one tunnel, five airports, a few ferry stations)
...I can think of five international London airports alone, without adding town and city airports etc... ;-)
[ Parent ]
Schengen explains a lot, thanks :-) (none / 0) (#69)
by martingale on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 04:59:27 AM EST

Was wondering by the way...
(one tunnel, five airports, a few ferry stations)
...I can think of five international London airports alone, without adding town and city airports etc... ;-)
Well I wrote this quickly, here's what I was thinking: only international airports qualify for EU inbound/outbound flights, and I counted Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton and Manchester. Technically, I suppose that Cambridge has an international landing strip.

[ Parent ]
Ah and then.. (none / 0) (#74)
by Mashx on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 05:47:34 AM EST

London City airport, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle..etc. ;-) They're all international and have international timetabled flights... But of course, I had forgotten mighty Cambridge as well! Just shows can't think of everywhere...
[ Parent ]
Ha, got you there (none / 0) (#76)
by martingale on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 06:01:30 AM EST

I did restrict myself to England originally...

[ Parent ]
no... (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by /dev/trash on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:29:58 AM EST

i'd wager a guess that Iceland, madagascar etc are all natural border types

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[ Parent ]
You have a point (none / 0) (#87)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 03:26:10 PM EST

but it's a rather pedantic one. :) Most state borders *are* artificial --- and even in the world of so-called nation-states, there is no meaningful relationship between the borders; there are Germans living within France, for example. But for that matter, the entire notion of *nationality* is artificial. :)

[ Parent ]
the edge of land or of jurisdiction (none / 0) (#95)
by kingcnut on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 09:24:44 PM EST

What natural border extends 12miles out to sea?

[ Parent ]
heh. (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by martingale on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 11:38:03 PM EST

This is somewhat nonsensical. The protection agains internal wars is a real phenomenon. You just can't build an army to invade Germany if you're France these days. External threats are a different matter, but your suggestion that the EU might get attacked by an irate unsuccessful applicant is wishful thinking. In fact, I can't think of any historical example where this sort of thing has ever occurred, though I'm open to suggestions.

[ Parent ]
come on... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by /dev/trash on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:34:44 AM EST

Not all wars are with guns.
let me do some research and I can find probably two examples.

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[ Parent ]
be my guest (5.00 / 1) (#12)
by martingale on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:38:53 AM EST

I'm honestly interested.

[ Parent ]
Pre-AD1000 wars? (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by linca on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:40:56 AM EST

You know, when there's no guns, war with guns...

But the economic "war" between the EU and the US is certainly not fought with gun ; however, it has strategies, tactics, and spies....

[ Parent ]
too obvious.... (2.00 / 1) (#14)
by /dev/trash on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:42:54 AM EST

I was talking more along the lines of say a Turkey or someone.....USA vs Europe economically has always existed, and bores me.

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[ Parent ]
I concur (none / 0) (#15)
by martingale on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:46:44 AM EST

Even more so, it doesn't illustrate the claim. The USA has not asked admittance in the EU or vice-versa. Turkey is your best bet, but hasn't acted.

[ Parent ]
pre-39 hitler? (none / 0) (#16)
by linca on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:47:59 AM EST

He did invade Austria and Chekoslovakia without a bullet shot.... Is that what you're looking for?

[ Parent ]
Sorry (none / 0) (#17)
by linca on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:55:04 AM EST

I had missed the point of the discussion. Consider my comments null.

[ Parent ]
turkey? (none / 0) (#58)
by KiTaSuMbA on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:27:37 PM EST

I don't think so... Turkey is developing a steadily increasing pro-EU fever and is already what could be called a "satellite applicant". The EU has expressed some serious considerations of their legislature and the issue of kurds that once solved the way would be wide open to them. Currently, Turkey's economy is broken up in a thousand pieces: these guys would kiss ass to get into the EU. US vs. EU economy war? It's only started man! Read another thread above :-P
There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
That's what I was saying... (none / 0) (#61)
by /dev/trash on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 11:31:31 PM EST

Turkey wants in....EU may not want them.....thus say a radical group starts warring with the EU....

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[ Parent ]
I see your point but that would be (none / 0) (#64)
by KiTaSuMbA on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 01:34:44 AM EST

something not to worry about: The entire EU vs. Turkey? And Turkey attacking on what excuse? Can you immagine the international community position on such a matter? Unless of course US backs up the NATO allied turkey and then we have some big fun!
(hopefuly not!)
There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
See my previous comemnts... (none / 0) (#84)
by /dev/trash on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 12:31:13 PM EST

Not all wars are fought with guns....

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[ Parent ]
What do you mean? (none / 0) (#85)
by Doktor Merkwuerdigliebe on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 12:52:15 PM EST

See my previous comemnts...

Well, could you clarify what is it that you are talking about? You said you would give some examples of what you meant and I'd like to see them as well. I agree with martingale that your assertion that a refused applicant might start "warring" with the EU is highly improbable. How would Turkey "war" with the EU in a non-military way?

Also Sprach Doktor Merkwürdigliebe...
[ Parent ]

example... (none / 0) (#89)
by /dev/trash on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 05:16:24 PM EST

Take the present steel import excise the US is levying on certain steel. That'd be a non-gun kind of war.

Updated 02/20/2004
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[ Parent ]
Alright (none / 0) (#90)
by Doktor Merkwuerdigliebe on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 06:39:32 PM EST

That's one, but you'd have to be in a position to do that. Currently, none of the applicants have something the EU needs or desperately wants and should they do such a thing, the potential economic retaliation from the EU would devastate their own economy. There are very few reasons for Europe to truly desire Turkey to be a member, so the Turks couldn't leverage anything to hasten their membership.

The only potential applicant with some economic clout would be Russia, but that country is unlikely to ever become a member (it's too big), not to mention that it is currently in the economic doldrums.

Also Sprach Doktor Merkwürdigliebe...
[ Parent ]

well... (none / 0) (#92)
by /dev/trash on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 07:38:28 PM EST

You'd be surprsied what actions could be taken when some French dude can't get some Turkish something or other, and that French dude makes a fuss about it.

Updated 02/20/2004
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[ Parent ]
What? (none / 0) (#93)
by Doktor Merkwuerdigliebe on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 08:02:19 PM EST

What do you mean? There's no need to be so vague. Trade wars are always possible, but to imagine it will be because of some private dispute is not very likely. How does this relate to Turkey breaking off trade with the EU after being refused membership anyway?

There's really nothing any applicant has on the EU. There are some benefits to them joining for the EU, but nothing that would necessitate their membership. A trade war between the EU and an applicant is nonsensical, since prior to application the applicant will already have a close trade relationship with the EU, i.e. the applicant is already in part dependent on EU trade. A trade war would be far more damaging to the applicant than to the EU.

Also Sprach Doktor Merkwürdigliebe...
[ Parent ]

Vague? (none / 0) (#94)
by /dev/trash on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 09:01:19 PM EST

Well maybe, I am not well versed on Turkish Exports. I wasn't saying it'd be a personal thing I was just saying that if say Turkish sheep were a big export to a few people in EU-land, and Turkey stopped exporting them, and these people complained to their respective governments and the governments retaliated with a punitive tariff on Turkish pigs.

My point is that it's small and inconsequential things that get the ball rolling.

Updated 02/20/2004
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[ Parent ]

I see (none / 0) (#96)
by Doktor Merkwuerdigliebe on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 09:29:34 PM EST

As I said, trade wars are always possible, but it just isn't very likely. The situation differs to that of the well-known trade disputes between the US/EU or Russia/US in that the two parties are in no way equal. So it would be far more sensible for Turkey to negotiate before stopping exports, rather than antagonise the EU. As for it "getting the ball rolling", there have been many arguments over trade balances, but it has never led to any serious escalation between European states. That's what the EU is supposed to prevent anyways.

I'm sorry, but your assertion that "war" (military or not) could be brewing in Europe because of discontented applicants is just very hard to imagine from my point of view. ;)

Also Sprach Doktor Merkwürdigliebe...
[ Parent ]

what you miss... (none / 0) (#59)
by KiTaSuMbA on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:44:05 PM EST

1)borders of the EU, are the borders of current national states. Noone loses (or gains) anything.
2)EU was not proclaimed, it evolves its way in the political scheme. This process will take some more generations to go, and I can assure you that most people of my age (mid 20s) have already developed a sense of common culture. What's nice about the EU is that you don't get forced to abolish traditions and cultures (as in occupied countries) but rather merge them (and merging is already happening), thus still keeping your individual origins and enriching them. In the past years I have been activelly involved in the Erasmus project (interchanging of european univ. students for a semester or two) and lived that "feeling" from pretty close.
There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
Some criticisms of the EU (4.11 / 9) (#5)
by Eloquence on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 10:44:02 PM EST

The European Union, all in all, is a good idea. The key problem is that the citizens of member nations are not properly informed about it. The media generally tend to ignore the decision making processes on the European level. At least in Germany, the media are strictly fixated on national politics. The result is a lack of knowledge on or emotional interest in European politics.

This, of course, drastically increases the risk of corruption, as media are less likely to investigate and expose it. Furthermore, as your article also points out, the powerful commission is of a questionable democratic nature. It's the "piling bodies upon bodies" problem, and the fact that commissioners often represent only their countries' (or their countries' industry's, as in the case of tobacco) interests.

It is no coincidence that it was the commission which resigned completely in 1999 in the wake of a corruption scandal. It was also the commission that made the decision to deliberately disinform the public about the BSE epidemic. From Foodwire:

From the representative of the Commission: "One must keep cool not to trigger reactions which are unfavourable to the market. Stop talking about BSE. The item should not be on the agenda." Unnamed participants: "We will make an official demand to the United Kingdom that they no longer should announce the results of their research into this matter". One of the conclusions at the meeting: "Generally speaking, the BSE affair must be played down through disinformation. One could rather say that the press tends to exaggerate."

(This was also covered in mainstream news sources at the time and is an established fact.)

On the other hand, the lack of media attention to EU matters could be seen as advantageous, as it might put parliamentarians under less pressure to act according to an agenda set by the media. So you will probably find quite a few fairly independent EU parliamentarians.

One thing citizens need to understand is that they are not required to accept anything decided by the EU. They can lobby against it on the national and supranational level. Such lobbying on the EU level, however, appears to be currently exclusively the domain of corporations, except for a few pressure groups. I would love to see a Scoop site exclusively devoted to European political matters.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy · Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

Hmm (4.80 / 5) (#6)
by Doktor Merkwuerdigliebe on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 11:10:40 PM EST

I would love to see a Scoop site exclusively devoted to European political matters.

Now there's a good idea. Does anyone know if such a thing exists?

If it's just the topics you want, you could try something like EUobserver which gathers all sorts of articles from the EU's member states relating to the EU.

Also Sprach Doktor Merkwürdigliebe...
[ Parent ]

Tell individuals what you've done for them (4.33 / 3) (#22)
by thebrix on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 04:48:02 AM EST

The first paragraph says it all; the EU needs to push forward the difference it makes to individuals, something which it is hopeless at. (As you would expect from a largely remote bureaucracy).

Two examples involving my family:

My late mother could not progress far in the legal profession because of an informal 'marriage bar' (on becoming married she had to give up her job) and could not sue the employer because there was, incredible as it seems now, no employment protection at the time; such bars were swept away, and employment protection introduced, as a precondition of the UK joining the EU in the early 1970s. Thereafter she never looked back.

My late father lost his job, managed to get another one in an area of high unemployment, then had the employer treat it, for tax and benefits purposes, as a part-time job. That abuse was squashed by the European Court a few years later.

So these EU actions had direct, obvious, beneficial effects on two individuals; there must be thousands if not millions of similar cases which the EU should shout from the rooftops. (And they allow me to treat the reflexive 'loading costs onto business' from employers' organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors with the contempt they deserve; two loathsome organisations).

I can't think of any similarly drastic effects on me, but I'd imagine the obvious abuses were removed early on in the UK's EU membership and it's easier to see things from the outside.

[ Parent ]

Europe vs. USA (3.50 / 4) (#9)
by CokeBear on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 11:59:17 PM EST

I can forsee a situation in the future where the EU and the USA are directly opposed to each other, perhaps even to the point of a new cold war. Many EU countries are somewhat Socialist, and Americans really don't like socialism, and appear to be moving even further to the right.

In the middle east, the American funded Israeli army destroyed some infrastructure that was financed by the EU. It appears that in that conflict, if it continues, the USA and EU will be on opposing sides.

In many other ways, the EU is coming together into an economic union that will be the only power that will rival the USA. With one currency, and nearly as much population and purchasing power as the USA (more as they admit more countries) the EU is shaping up to be the next big superpower. Although they are friendly with the USA right now, that could change in a hurry if the American government wakes up to the socialism that is the EU.

That's pretty hard to imagine (3.66 / 3) (#19)
by ariux on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 02:59:14 AM EST

The people of the US - except for a lunatic fringe that thinks the US should be waging constant war against everybody, including each other and Harvey the Invisible Bunny Rabbit - overwhelmingly see Europeans as friends (if sometimes friendly competitors).

Europe may generally be more "socialist" than the United States, but it's nothing like the Soviet Union was.

I don't know the feelings on the European side, but if I jettison alarmism and try to seek a representative sample instead of paying disproportionate attention to trolls and extremists, I'm pretty reassured.

[ Parent ]

It would seem... (4.33 / 3) (#24)
by cyberdruid on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 05:23:51 AM EST

...that given the post-9/11 political climate, Harvey the Invisible Bunny Rabbit has reason to be worried.

[ Parent ]
Just remember... (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by AWalker on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 03:29:06 PM EST

Americans have that lovely term 'collatoral damage'....!

[ Parent ]
typo (none / 0) (#55)
by martingale on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:02:10 PM EST

That's "collateral", for the benefit of those readers trying to learn English.

NOBODY expects the typo police...

[ Parent ]
Luntic Fringe (3.40 / 5) (#38)
by CokeBear on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 11:32:21 AM EST

The problem is that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are members of that lunatic fringe. And the extremist right wing fringe that controls the US Government is deathly afraid of Socialism. Remember, this is the same USA where 70% believe in creationism.

[ Parent ]
Israel & EU (3.83 / 6) (#28)
by Betcour on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 06:01:58 AM EST

Actually the EU ordered a mission to compute how much EU-built things have been destroyed by Israel in Palestine. They are considering sending Israel the bill (especially a nice brand new airport buldozed by Israel as a vengeance)

[ Parent ]
Airport? (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by Rk on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 07:43:41 AM EST

I thought they only tore up the runway?

Was the airport being used at all? I imagine the Israelis might have some reservations about Palestianian aircraft flying over Israel. It wouldn't be too hard to fly a 737 or an A320 or whatever aircraft would've actually flown there into the Knesset.

[ Parent ]
Airport (3.66 / 3) (#32)
by Betcour on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 08:28:24 AM EST

I think this was the Gaza airport (too lazy to search on Google, its sunday ;). They tore up the runaway as well as destroyed the main building as well as the control tower and tracking equipement (that happened another time). The airport was closed anyway but that's not a reason to waste MY tax money and destroy a perfectly nice and totally harmless installation.

[ Parent ]
Israel's destruction of EU funded projects (none / 0) (#80)
by beak on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 07:37:24 AM EST

According to the BBC 21-2-2002 the report gave a figure of 17.3 million Euros.
    Some of the damaged projects listed in the letter were Gaza airport, a hotel in Bethlehem, a statistics office, schools, a forensic laboratory, and an irrigation scheme for Jericho.

[ Parent ]
Nitpicking (4.20 / 5) (#29)
by Betcour on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 06:05:36 AM EST

and nearly as much population and purchasing power as the USA

Actually the EU as it is is already over the American population : the EU is 380 millions inhabitants as of 2001, and with the arrival of eastern europe the 500 million mark is not too far away. This is the 3rd largest "country" behind China and India.

[ Parent ]
Socialism in the EU (4.77 / 9) (#33)
by coillte on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:14:12 AM EST

I'm a citizen of an EU member state - Ireland - so I feel quite confident in speaking from my experience of it.

The concept of the types of Socialism practiced in the EU being a source of fear in the US is, to me, quite laughable.

For to reasons.

Primarily, our practice of socialism, or of mixed economy - a mixture of centrally planned and free enterprise - in almost all cases expresses itself in the desire for a comprehensive welfare state.

To put this succinctly, the practice of socialism is generally motivated by the desire to have a hospital, educational, and unemployment benefit system open to all.

Take Ireland for instance. All education, apart from private schools, up to the level of school leaving, is funded by the state. The ethos behind this is, that all citizens, regardless of wealth, have access to an education. This is a characteristic of central planning. It is a characteristic of socialism. It is also a characteristic of the US school system. There is a degree, I think, to which American politics has mislabeled the left. Certain practices of America - eg schooling - are socialist practices. Unemployment benefit - no matter how restricted - is another. Federal aid programs can be seen as yet another.

We also have, not unusually, the first degree, to Bachelor level, free of cost to the individual. Same ethos. Same desire for social/economic access to be available to all individuals.

Healthcare, again, generally available completely, or overwhelmingly free of cost in most European countries to those who could not aford it otherwise.

The wellspring of this type of socialism in Europe, is humanitarianism. We see this, in general, as a civilised way to take care of ourselves, and others.

These are but a few examples.

The concept of fearing socialism, as practised in this sense, seems unremittingly ludicrous to me. And any nation that would fear, and as you forsee, eventually dispute these practices would seem to have a fundamental misconception of what socialism is, and of what it means to be opposed to it.

"XVI The Blasted Tower. Here is purification through fire,lightning, flames, war...the eye is the eye of Shiva... the serpent on the right is the symbol of the active will to live,the dove on the left is passive resignation to death"
[ Parent ]
Assumptions (3.66 / 3) (#39)
by CokeBear on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 11:37:27 AM EST

You are assuming Americans are rational. Hardly a given, as nearly 70% of them accept creation as fact, and reject evolution. Americans are sheep, and they will believe anything their government and religious leaders tell them.

[ Parent ]
Assumptions (3.33 / 9) (#41)
by CokeBear on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 11:39:27 AM EST

You are assuming Americans are rational. Hardly a given, as nearly 70% of them accept creation as fact, and reject evolution. Americans are sheep, and they will believe anything their government and religious leaders tell them. Americans do have a fundamental misconception about socialism, but that will not stop them from being wholly critical of any country they view as more socialist then themselves.

[ Parent ]
Americans are rational (4.25 / 4) (#47)
by coillte on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 01:26:44 PM EST

What, in anything I said, could give you the impression that I thought so?

The concept of 260 million people being rational or irrational, is one characterised by illogic. Admittedly, in general terms, one must allow certain latitude, certain licence, and put up with the taxonomic restrictions and disadvantages of generalisation to converse meaningfully.

What I said, did not particularly rest upon the supposed rationalality of the American people as a whole. Rather, it admitted of the possibility of a negative attitude towards European socialism, and expounded the baselessness, and ample ridiculousness of such a viewpoint. At no stage did I imply, or state, that the majority of US citizens held that view. My opinion on US views of European politics, at that level, are that animosity does not seem to exist at the level of the majority.

Thse who exist on the fringes may have the type of frothing replusion for these ideas, but it by no means characterises the reality of US/European political or cultural relations. Possibly, because in everyday interaction, we are not labelled socialist.

I'd certainly be interested in having you provide a source for the 70% quote. I'd hazard it's a controversial figure at best.

"XVI The Blasted Tower. Here is purification through fire,lightning, flames, war...the eye is the eye of Shiva... the serpent on the right is the symbol of the active will to live,the dove on the left is passive resignation to death"
[ Parent ]
fundamental misconception about socialism (4.25 / 4) (#51)
by shinshin on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 04:54:13 PM EST

You are assuming Americans are rational. Hardly a given, as nearly 70% of them accept creation as fact, and reject evolution.

I would be interested to know where you got that statistic. I'm not disagreeing, I just would like to know the source.

Americans are sheep, and they will believe anything their government and religious leaders tell them. Americans do have a fundamental misconception about socialism, but that will not stop them from being wholly critical of any country they view as more socialist then themselves.

Sadly, although I disagree with your scornful and superior tone, you are pretty much correct. Bear in mind, though, that the average "non-political" American make a vague correlation between Socialism and Communism. That is, Socialism is to Communism as Marijuana is to Heroin. That's the effect that the media has on us (and would have on you too, if you were subjected to the sort of blatant psychological brainwashing tactics that American television promotes).

Our blind and irrational hatred of Communism has benefits: you EU people wouldn't have Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland all lining up to join your new empire if it weren't for the American hatred of Communism.

And w.r.t. our confused hatred of Solialism: don't worry, we'll get over it given a little time.

[ Parent ]
Are you kidding? (4.28 / 7) (#54)
by Mzilikazi on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 06:45:50 PM EST

The creation statistic is bogus. Here's one source (very biased on the side of creationism) that states only 50% of Americans support creationism over evolution. (It's down near the very end of the article, right before the bibliography.)

This anti-creationism essay states that 49% of Americans accept evolution:

Those are just two quickly looked up statistics, I'm sure you can find numbers to support everything from 0% to 100% for both sides. Frankly, evolution is taught in public school throughout the United States (with a couple of rare exceptions like Kansas), and is taught in virtually every college and university that teaches biology (again, a few rare exceptions like maybe Bob Jones University).

Hell, I live in Tennessee, a fairly conservative, religious state, and not only was I exposed to evolution theory throughout my entire education, but even grew up in a Presbyterian Church that was on the record as supporting evolution theory over creation in education.

Your posts make it sound as if scientists like Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan are regularly placed under house arrest for stating beliefs contrary to the church. Oh wait, that happened somewhere else.

Also, I must disagree with your post about Americans being sheep. First off, most of us (or our ancestors) were un-sheepish enough to escape the countries of Europe (and every other country in the world) for a chance at a better life and to get away from repressive governments. Secondly, not every American goes to church, and besides, we've never had a state religion, unlike every country in Europe (and most no longer have them, except for some like England, or countries like Italy in which a single religion occupies a vast majority of the population). We do take very seriously our freedom of religion, whether you be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., or none of the above.

And what's this about our believing anything government leaders tell us? We're notoriously suspicious of government, and that distrust is embedded in the Constitution in a number of places, not the least of which are in the right of free speech and the right to bear arms.

As for socialism, America hardly has a unified opinion on the matter. Some states like California and Massachusettes (in addition to most of the largest cities throughout the nation) are slightly in favor of socialism, at least in terms of government-sponsored healthcare, higher taxation, and public education. I think cities like Berkeley and San Francisco would be happy to convert to Canadian- or Swedish-style socialism overnight. Other areas, like much of the West aside from California, tend to lean the other way.

And I don't have the figures handy, but a casual look around would seem to indicate that there are far more people that have left socialist countries to come to America than the reverse.

The general idea that all of America, or even a majority can be tied to some particular mind set is ridiculous, just like it is in Europe. Not all Europeans feel the same way on issues, or even the same way about Americans. If I based my opinion of Europeans solely off of what I read in kuro5hin, I probably wouldn't have gone over there so often and had such a great time. :)


[ Parent ]

Minor correction (none / 0) (#97)
by Peaker on Tue Apr 16, 2002 at 01:49:39 PM EST

, and that distrust is embedded in the Constitution in a number of places, not the least of which are in the right of free speech and the right to bear arms.

In the constitution: "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms", according to logs and interpretations, is actually referring to the right of the United States as a country to bear arms and have an army, and not to the right of each individual to bear arms. There is nothing in the constitution encouraging a violent coup.

[ Parent ]

Not to get off on a sub-thread... (none / 0) (#98)
by Mzilikazi on Wed Apr 17, 2002 at 01:56:19 AM EST

The second amendment arguments are covered in more detail elsewhere on K5 and this isn't the thread for it, but regardless of the interpretation of the Constitution (despite the differing definitions of "the people" from one amendment to the next), politicians are out of necessity a bit friendlier to armed constituents than to unarmed constituents.


[ Parent ]

Stats (none / 0) (#50)
by V1m Fuego on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 04:12:08 PM EST

I think the combined GDP of the EU exceeds that of the US. I'm certain the population does. 90m in Germany alone, and 65m in the UK.

[ Parent ]
GDP (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by LeftOfCentre on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 05:32:17 PM EST

Whether the EU GDP exceeds that of the US depends, I believe, on whether one uses compensates for purchasing power or not -- which is common these days. When that is done, the combined EU GDP is around 1/9 less than that of the US. So I'd say they are in relative parity.

[ Parent ]
Why? (none / 0) (#52)
by danne on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 05:30:59 PM EST

Just becouse I don't have to pay for my school food does _not_ make me hate the USA.

I wonder if Echelon scanned that. :-)

[ Parent ]
I'll tell you why... (none / 0) (#57)
by KiTaSuMbA on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:19:34 PM EST

Ok, socialists, non socialists, there is little difference. The truth is that to make the economies work, you need some kind of strategic competitor. Perhaps half the money that go round the world are based on military or military-related industries. To make that clear: did you know that most of the top notch theoritical physics papers are sponsored by NATO research? (I really can't think of any use of superstrings over military purposes for say, another century, millenium, forever?). Ideological, national and, in earlier days of history, religious hatred has always been the "excuse" rather than the cause. It has only been necessary to convince the masses. Even the otherwise irrational nazi-style antisemetism put under this light looks like it worked way too efficiently in concentrating the german population's support for such a bloodshed that WWII required. Take a look at what happened just after the USSR dissolved: a thousand little/medium scale wars all over the planet. NATO *had* to find a purpose to live. From a plain statistical point of view, the cold war was much more a world peace than what we have now. As regions to be burnt to ground are steadily decresing, a new shift to a "bipolar" world political scheme is to be expected. Probably not in the extent of the cold war, but rather as an economic one. We will have banks to count and not warheads. Hey, did you notice how the USA "retaliated" against the EU on the importation of steel early this year? That is, as soon as the euro currency substituted all but a few EU national currencies and was expected to bounce over the dollar? The supposed terrorist attack risk in italy against random american citizens on easter day issued by the foreign office? Perhaps the known to be too american-friendly PM Berlusconi was playing too much of his pro-european policy (causing some friction even inside his right wing government coalition). The truth is, excuses can always be found and the reasons already exist. Don't hold your breath though, some things take time.
There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
Uh.... (none / 0) (#91)
by NDPTAL85 on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 07:10:02 PM EST

The Euro hasn't been close to overpowering the Dollar since it was introduced. Not that a stronger Euro would be a bad thing to begin with.....

[ Parent ]
on the Israeli conflict (4.00 / 1) (#65)
by Delirium on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 04:09:30 AM EST

The U.S. has supplied Israel with some of the more visible weapons -- Apache helicopters and F-16 fighters -- but the E.U. has supplied Israel with a good deal of what it really uses to attack the Palestinians -- the components for its Merkava tanks. Many of the components are imported from Germany.

[ Parent ]
...and friendly economic competition (none / 0) (#75)
by martingale on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 05:56:43 AM EST

This was reportedly muttered by martingale after reading Delirium's post, but could not be confirmed:

"And if it hadn't been for those dastardly Americans with their infuriating F16s, I dare say that Israel would have continued to use the Mirage series."

[ Parent ]
But the US weapons... (none / 0) (#79)
by beak on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 07:29:10 AM EST

...are paid for with the several billion dollars per year of US military aid to Israel.

'Buy a squadron of Black hawks, at this low-low discount price, and you get 2 Apache's and a shitload of ammo free!!'

[ Parent ]

Well done and a small objection (3.83 / 6) (#20)
by martingale on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 03:07:51 AM EST

I realize that the thrust of the article is really about the structure of the European Union, but I wouldn't be French if I didn't point out that you give Churchill's speech too much importance in the introductory material, while not mentioning two much more important founders, namely de Gaulle and Adenauer, the French and German heads of state whose rapprochement really sealed the european initiatives in the late fifties.

EU suck! (1.24 / 29) (#21)
by pepperpusher on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 04:29:52 AM EST


We are the EU. (none / 0) (#82)
by Razitshakra on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 09:11:22 AM EST

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Lets ride / You and I / In the midnight ambulance
- The Northern Territories
[ Parent ]
Some notes (2.57 / 7) (#23)
by Hopfrog on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 04:59:01 AM EST

There is a lot of talk with Russia in recent months. Maybe russia will someday for a union with the EU to for Russeu or something. Germany just forgave 9 billion foreign dept owed by Russia. Also, Putin speaks good German, because he was a KGB spy living in german. His daughters all attend german school and speak fluent German.

Regarding the rift with the U.S: Some EU minister was saying that it looks as if the U.S is always charging into wars, destroying everything, and leaving the E.U to clean up the mess and rebuild everything.


History begs to differ (1.66 / 3) (#63)
by Pseudoephedrine on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 12:37:38 AM EST

Some EU minister was saying that it looks as if the U.S is always charging into wars, destroying everything, and leaving the E.U to clean up the mess and rebuild everything.

Certain recent events seem to suggest otherwise.

"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]

How will China feel about that? (none / 0) (#83)
by dachshund on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 10:25:27 AM EST

Maybe russia will someday for a union with the EU to for Russeu or something.

I certainly don't think China will feel great about having a generally US-friendly pan-continental superpower to their north. I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually see an EU that includes half of the Russian Federation, and some sort of China-based federation that includes a big chunk of the rest. How that shakes out is going to be interesting, and probably a little frightening.

Welcome to the next-- hopefully cold-- war.

[ Parent ]

Not necessarily... (4.00 / 1) (#88)
by MKalus on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 04:55:32 PM EST

... the way I see it is that a LOT of people in the EU are not necessarily friendly to the US per se (they acknowledge what the US did in Europe over the past 80 years, but it isn't really a love affaire).

Also, I doubt that the US is going to LOVE the idea of a strong and independant Europe (yeah, I know they scream for it right now, but that's just politics).

If anything will happen at all I guess the EU/Russia thing is a possiblity.

EU/Russia on one side, the US on the other and China somewhere in the middle (right now, I would guess they try to play both sides to see who is stronger in the end).

Just my quick and dirty opinion about this very complicated matter :)


[ Parent ]
I was torn in the poll... (3.50 / 8) (#25)
by leviramsey on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 05:37:26 AM EST

I both like and dislike the EU. I like the concept, but I dislike the implementation. I feel that a more federal-type system (as in the US) may be the better way to go than the more confederation-style structure currently in place. This is probably more shaped by the American experience with a confederation (the Articles of Confederation) than anything else.

Difference between Europe and the US (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by Thwk on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 06:09:41 AM EST

Europeans don't have a common identity of the same strenght as USians (excuse me the term, but the term Americans would be confusing in this context) do. I doubt the EU will develope into a federal union like the US in at least a few generations, since there's so much nationalistic feelings and opposition against "giving up the national independence", as anti-EU propagators put it.

[ Parent ]
I was a little idealist... (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by leviramsey on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 10:04:10 AM EST

But that said, what Europe has now (as I see it) that the US didn't in the 1780's are the language and the historical antipathy. There was a huge degree of regionalism (which exists to a large degree even today in the US) in the new United States.

There's a very interesting book by Kevin Phillips entitled The Cousins' Wars which explores the regional tensions (in economics, religion, and interpretation of rights) that fueled the English Civil War, American Revolution, and the US Civil War.

[ Parent ]
Work in progress (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by Doktor Merkwuerdigliebe on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 10:49:23 AM EST

I don't think you can wholly equate the federalisation process of the US with what's going on in Europe at the moment. There certainly are many similarities, but there are some key differences. Two you mention, but another important one is that the process in Europe is still going on and is relatively undetermined. Whereas in the US the proposed institutions were formed in the few years of the late 18th century, the European process has known no definite goal and it still doesn't.

Once the US federation was in place, the colonies grew even more together than they already were and the "national" US feeling developed. In Europe, there was no federation up front, just an increasing number of areas where nation states decided to co-operate with one another through treaties and resulting institutions. It's a far more gradual process and it's has always been the intention to evolve the union rather than proclaim it.

One could argue that this is exactly why the EU is successful. Many have dreamed of a united Europe before and worked towards it, but they usually envisioned a grand union to start with, a parallel of the US process. The reason such visions usually failed was because no nation state, having taken care of its own affairs for centuries and sometimes in conflict with others, was willing to give up that position for an unknown one. There just wasn't enough trust in the union and between the partners. With the EU, this trust is something that has been gradually, issue for issue, built over 50 years and it will likely still need years before the notion of a union close to a true federation is feasable. Even then, there's no telling what it will look like. It's a work in progress and it'll be done when it's done...

Also Sprach Doktor Merkwürdigliebe...
[ Parent ]

Views on the EU (4.40 / 5) (#27)
by Thwk on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 05:59:42 AM EST

These are the viewpoints of a random EU nation member citizen (I'm finnish). The article was very informing for me, even though I'm an EU citizen, which shows something of the ignorance about the EU among normal citizens (and I'd maybe even consider myself a bit more informed / interested about the subject than the average person here, at least in my age group).

I think there are a few major obstacles in the way of the EU ever developing very far in regards of cooperation.

1. Nationalism. It seems to be a very common trend for nation representatives to drive almost fanatically for their own nation's goals in the EU. I see this as a problem, since it takes focus away from other, more serious problems. Instead of arguing like kids about where to place the latest EU agency only to gain popularity in the own country, the representatives should be focusing on real problems. I could be a bit biased coming from one of the smallest EU countries, but this seems to be more common among the ministers of the largest EU countries (maybe because of national pride?).

2. The already mentioned ignorance and lack of interest for the EU among normal citizens. This directly leads to the type of misconceptions the author of the article mentioned. There's a lot of scepticism and dislike of the EU, especially because of the required bureacracy in every EU matter.

Seems we're seeing more EU ideological unity (3.41 / 17) (#34)
by Spork on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:22:35 AM EST

I think the US lunatic rampage which is called the "War on Terror" is awakening in Europeans a new sense of continental brotherhood. They realize that below superficial differences they really have the same values and a similar temperament. The absurdity of the "War on Terror" has shown them that their European allies really are much more reliable and palatable than the boss of NATO, and I think this will lead to a strengthening of the political union.

The USA of GWB is conveniently giving them a model to define themselves against. Though the EU is starting out as a loose confereration of states with different languages and traditions, it's worth remembering that the United States started out the same way. It will not be very long before they get an "EU army" with locally-produced armaments like the Eurofighter. This really makes sense to me, and I think it will soon start making sense to most Europeans.

This development (none / 0) (#81)
by fr2ty on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 08:57:00 AM EST

If you're right then it's started way before this war on terror. You are right with your comment on GWB. He behaves like he's looking for enemies, globally.
Please note that are neither capitals nor numbers in my mail adress.
[ Parent ]
Some more on the history of EU (4.33 / 6) (#36)
by infraoctarine on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 10:40:39 AM EST

First of all, well written and reseached. I thought about writing something similar many months ago, but of course I'm far too lazy to actually write and submit articles at all :-)

As for the history part, it is interresting to note that what is now EU was originally divided in two organizations, the EEC (precursor to the EU) and EFTA (the European Free Trade Association).

When the EEC was initially formed, it consisted of 6 countries. Some of the other european countries preferred a more loosely knit free trade group, and formed EFTA as sort of a counter-balance to the EEC.

In the end, it seems like the ideas of the EEC countries have won out. At the height of its power, EFTA had 9 member states. The UK, Denmark and Ireland left EFTA for the EEC in 1973, Portugal in 1985. Finally, Sweden, Finland and Austria made the switch in 1995, when the EEC had become the EU.

Actually, EFTA still exists, although it no longer carries the weight it once did. Its members are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. EFTA still have free-trade agreements with the EU, and its members are required to adopt some of the EU law.

Well.. (3.20 / 10) (#42)
by The Great Wakka on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 11:57:08 AM EST

I live in the United States. But I'd like to see the powers balanced again, at least economically. I hope one day the European countries will form a completely unified economy. That way, the United States will be no longer feeling like it owns the world. (*cough* Bush *cough*). But who knows?

Point is (1.78 / 19) (#43)
by Phillip Asheo on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 11:58:45 AM EST

European Union is not democratic. Its a fascist superstate.

"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long

If we are going to have representative democracy.. (none / 0) (#44)
by LeftOfCentre on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:03:59 PM EST

...then I think we need to accept that our politicians created the EU. If we don't trust them to make decisions for us, then we need to move towards something more along the lines of what is used in Switzerland, with frequent referendums on single issues.

Besides, polls show overall fairly high support for the EU among the population.

Something that I find very ironic is that the opponents of the EU are usually the ones who are most resistant towards proposals that would enhance democracy, such as making the European Commision president elected by the people. Such proposals, and even the word "federalism", seems to send a chill down the spines of the Swedish and British governments.

[ Parent ]
Switzerland model (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by MaraudeR es on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:31:15 PM EST


I live in Spain and from sometime ago I've been reading about Switzerland politic model (links in english or spanish about this issue are wellcome). I think its the best democratic method I've seen in Europe and surely in the current world. Sadly, who makes the law, makes the trap: are politicians arranged for lost power givin it to the people?

I don't know too much about other democracies of UE, but particularly in Spain democracy have a lot of vices from its constitution. I think thats due to, after Franco's dictadorship, a bit of freedom was enough to spanish. Our today's Constitution is essentially the same that was wrotten on 1978 and its a very rigid frame that our politicians doesn't want to modify, even (or say 'specially') when propossed changes are evidently to give more decission power to the people.

IMHO, representative democracy is better than dictatorship or a monarchy, but direct democracy is better than representative.

[ Parent ]
Switzerland (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by LeftOfCentre on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 12:37:52 PM EST

I recommend the book "The Referendum - Direct Democracy in Switzerland" by Kris Kobach. In addition, the US-based organization Direct Democracy League has various info and references to the Swiss system of government.

[ Parent ]
Thanks, very interesting (none / 0) (#56)
by MaraudeR es on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 09:15:32 PM EST

I'm on that pages and I'll try to find that book.

BTW, I think if you're well informed (I think so) about this issue, perhaps you would like to post a complete history in kuro5hin. :)

[ Parent ]
election EU leaders by the people (3.00 / 1) (#77)
by sangdrax on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 06:40:10 AM EST

I live in the EU and I do not want democracy in the EU top, and this is why:

I don't want leaders like Bush just cuz he has a nice face or whatever on TV. /That's/ what people vote for. I want competent people there not hyped up but capable. And I trust my national government to make that decision.

I live in the Netherlands. We dutch are at the moment struggeling with a new party that has risen with fairly extreme and simplistic ideas. The people dig it and vote for it. They even vote for the party in cities in local elections where it totally lacks any local programme.

Sorry, I don't particularly like democracy. People vote for what they see on TV, not because they support the party's views because they don't even /read/ that stuff before voting.

[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 0) (#99)
by LeftOfCentre on Tue Apr 23, 2002 at 06:48:48 PM EST

I agree about the problem, but I don't see any obvious reason why it would be bigger if introduced on EU level. Already a lot of people on member state level vote without having a clue.

[ Parent ]
Good counterpoint to the tobbaco article (4.66 / 3) (#48)
by chbm on Sun Apr 14, 2002 at 01:58:17 PM EST

Good timming considering the other article about the EU the tobbaco corruption.

The European Parlament is viewed as bin for both the unconfortable and disgraced politians. That is, if your party sees you as a bother, that is, if you are honest, point out dirty deals and generally don't "play the game" you get a seat in the EP. Also, if you got involved in something nasty enough to look bad for the party you get sent packing to the EP as a consolation prize, kept well out of view of nationals. So you get a mix of people who really want to make a diference and organize themselfs in comitees that draft proposals, and Politians happy to move in the highest european power spheres, able to play with the big boys (where the other article comes from).

It all comes from the lack of importance people generally give to european elections when compared to national elections (which don't get a lot of importance anyway). I'd say some of what's bad about the EU govern is the people's fault who don't even care to look at who they are electing (myself included).

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --
Present versus Future (4.66 / 3) (#71)
by Mashx on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 05:33:14 AM EST

In the last twenty years I seen the 'Common Market' become the 'European Economic Community' and then onto the Union. Until recently I had absolute disdain for the people in Brussels, who seemed just to leech off the back of the European people, and especially Britain, who put in the second highest amount of money after Germany, and yet saw only burocracy and idiotic decrees about how much bananas could bend to be called bananas and how round a strawberry had to be to be called a strawberry.

However in the last couple of years, working for a Belgian company all over Europe and North America, I have come to understand that there is good reasons for integrating, however sad it seems to lose the individuality of each of the nations, especially my little island. Since last year I have been working on a project with people from nearly all the member states (only Greece left out), and the ease of having all the same coins is astounding. Even if the coffee machine doesn't like the 2 Euro coins from Germany much.

But there are still a couple of very large problems for me:

  • European Politicians pretty much are completely disassociated with the people they represent: because there is the feeling that they sit in Brussels, eat lunch from 10-4, and decide these stupid rules, when it comes to electing them, certainly in the UK, these elections are used as a vote of confidence for the UK government.
  • Openness of government. In the last couple of years the level of beurocracy and corruption within the European government has come under attack, and this has started to be addressed: it is certainly nowhere near how it should be. Mark Thomas, a British comedian of varying success, showed this last year when he investigated the financial interests and register of these interest of MEPs: despite the Code of Conduct including that MEPs must fill in a register of their financial interests before they join the parliament, a lot of them hadn't. In fact, to see the register, MT had to go to Brussels to make an appointment, and was not allowed to photocopy or take pictures of the hand-written pages of the documents: hardly a sign of a modern open government.

    As another poster said elsewhere, the European Union will only be accepted as a central government when they start making individual lives easier, and with the introduction of the Euro, this is being seen across the Eurobloc. This is not the case though in the UK, who didn't join at the time, and in my view, it wasn't the right time. It is inevitable, but the cycles of the economy have to get a bit closer before they can. There is good prospects for the future, especially as the area widens to include the Eastern Bloc countries, but there is a hell of a lot of work to be done.

  • Non democratic (3.33 / 3) (#72)
    by Jon Peterson on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 05:43:44 AM EST

    "The power of the European Parliament has gradually been extended over the decades. In some cases, the European Parliament has a purely advisory role while in many areas it has direct veto power over proposals put forward by the Commision."

    Now, just look at that again. The main democratic organisation in the EU ONLY has a power of veto over legislation put forward by the ENTIRELY undemocratic Commission. Compare that to (for instance) the UK system where the un-elected second house (House of Lords) ONLY has a power of delay (not even veto) over legislation put forward by the entirely democratic House of Commons. It's the exact opposite of the EU system, and you're suprised people don't like the EU?

    Secondly, although anecdote is not argument, it's unsuprising ppl don't like the EU when you hear things like this, from a person I met at the EU's central bank:

    The bank had a brand new building created for itself. It was a very nice, very high quality, very expensive building, in the heart of Europe. It was decided that it was important to have a very high class building, to show people how important these central EU institutions were. In fact, it was so high class, the solid, curved, hardwood doors on each office cost over 1000 pounds each.

    However, it wasn't long before people started to criticise the central bank for the extravagance of its offices, and the unnecessary expenditure of money on things like curved hardwood office doors. So, not long after the building was finished, they spend even more money replacing the very expensive doors with cheaper, normal ones, so as to have a better image in the public eye.

    It doesn't get more stupid than that. I have no idea what happened to the original doors.

    The main reason for this (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by oconnoje on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 07:04:55 AM EST

    he main democratic organisation in the EU ONLY has a power of veto over legislation put forward by the ENTIRELY undemocratic Commission.
    To start with, the Commission is not entirely undemocratic -- its members are appointed by democratically elected governments, and it can be dismissed by the Parliament.

    But the main reason for the Commission having more power than the Parliament is that the smaller states want it that way. In the European Parliament, seats are allocated to each country on the basis of population. This means that, if the EU were run on a more directly democratic basis, France, the UK, Italy and Germany could potentially force through legislation that favours them, against the will of the other 11 smaller member states. The EU would become a tyranny of the majority.

    Maybe we should look at the US system, where each US state elects two senators to the Senate, regardless of population. Directly elected commissioners might be a step towards this.

    I agree with you entirely on the need for more accountability and transparency within the EU, though.
    [ Parent ]

    The EU was good; no it is crap (1.00 / 1) (#86)
    by musicmaker on Mon Apr 15, 2002 at 01:45:57 PM EST

    Nowadays the EU is telling the countries how they have to run their affairs up to the smallest details: they even want to dictate how the management of railways, airports and harbours is organized. This all in the belief that a free market is good for the economy. In practice it often works the other way and you get a big mess. No problem for the EU: they give the guidelines and the national governments may sort out the shit. As a consequence national governments have become more and more paralized during the last decade. In the past the EU had a lot of projects both to build the economy and to build the union. Nowadays, while they have centralized much of the economic power, they have become less and less active with initiatives. It seems that we have now both the bad parts of a loose confederation (indecisiveness and lack of synergy) and those of a strong federation (powerless members).

    Introduction to the European Union | 99 comments (97 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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